The end, that was actually the beginning.

If you read my previous post you will know that we were (are) on a bit of a mission to find out what is going on within our little boys cute little self. If you haven’t read that, you might want to start here https://aprilmartinphotography.com/2015/03/12/keegans-journey/    …. go ahead, I’ll wait …

Welcome back!

Shortly after that post Keegan went for his formal assessments. We sat there and were explained to that while they found zero signs of Autism, there was “no doubt” according to the psychologist that he has ADHD. Rewind about 2 hours before this, I woke up with the flu, felt like absolute ass (which is a ridiculous statement I know, but paints a comical picture) and really wasn’t sure how this was all going to work but I knew that we needed to battle through the morning and get to the bottom of this. “Bottom” haha … silly me thinking this was going to be any kind of ending. Little did I know that our journey was only about to begin.

So there we sat, going over all of the findings. Some I agreed with, some I did not. Some I already knew but still needed to have them confirmed in order to process it all, and some I thought “we paid how much for this??!!” Don’t get me wrong, we were dealing with very educated, capable, intelligent people who knew what they were talking about. It is bizarre though, to digest that this small amount of time, only a matter of hours in total start to finish, was going to forever change things. Us as parents, our son, our family dynamic, and on and on.

Before you get all “it doesn’t have to change anything.” Or “it will only change things if you let it.” I know that how we deal with that change is entirely personal but let me just rip the band aid right off for you. The change itself, is not optional. Things change, in fact a lot changes.

We asked any questions we had, we took our stack of papers, and we went on our way. I was thankful for the flu that morning. Any emotion that I had, that otherwise would be been cried and blown out into tissue was completely stifled by the concentration it took not to throw up all over the psychs table. At one point Lane asked me how I was doing, I think he meant with the diagnosis but I can’t be sure. In either case I said “Im fine” which really was a lie no matter which way you looked at it.

For a long time now, as a coping skill, when Keegan acts out I have thought to myself before reacting, “he doesn’t like this any more than I do.” It’s a simple statement, but it helps me. It helps me to not be angry with him. It helps me to understand and try to come down somewhere in between where my blood pressure is and where his little mind is. When we stop believing that absolutely everything is a conscious choice, we learn to look at things with an open mind. I know when Keegan is being silly, and testing me. I know that when he comes over to me and says “can I have the iPad cause I looooooove you?!” and plants a big kiss on my face, he knows what he is doing. I also know however, that when it’s been a long day, or maybe we have been in an overstimulating place, and he has nothing else to say but “you’re a bad mom and I don’t like you” I know that those words have escaped his mouth without a choice and those words are usually followed by “that wasn’t nice was it? Im sorry.”

So now I decide, as a mother, what to do with this. I choose to embrace it. I am not “April Martin, ADHD parent” but I am the parent of a child with ADHD and that is important, because it plays a part in my daily life. I choose to move forward and learn how to help Keegan iron out his wrinkles. I choose to believe, and to help HIM believe that life won’t always be so frustrating. I choose to believe that he CAN learn coping skills, and that his quirks are things that he HAS, not things that he IS. We all have our things. For example, I have an intense hate for olives. I cannot avoid them everywhere I go however, so I have just learned over time to pick them out. I will help Keegan pick the olives out of his life until he can do it for himself. That is my job, I am his person.

So that’s where we are. In the very beginning of what I thought was the end, of a very long road. I am thankful for patience (most days), for knowledge, for a plan greater than I can see, and for a partner in life who walks this road (holding our kids hands) with me.

our Fab 5.

our Fab 5

Keegans journey.

When we had our daughter we hit the jackpot. Karleigh was the happiest, best sleeping baby in the history of ever, and then she turned 18 months old. From that time until she was 3 it was like living with a cute, small, little monster with pigtails. Every morning she woke up happy, and the rest of the day after that was a total mystery. If someone came over, she would either hug them, or scream (and I mean, the girl had LUNGS!) People used to tell me “oh just wait, it gets worse when they turn 3” and I would very confidently reply “you don’t understand, it can’t get worse, therefore it will not” … and it didn’t. Karleigh turned 3 and the light switched back, we kissed (or kicked!) the terrible 2’s goodbye and we moved on! We never looked back and she amazes me everyday at what a consistent shining little ray of joy she is.

Having dealt with the terrible 2’s once, when Keegan came into them we weren’t surprised. Just like Karleigh, he was a happy baby, met all his milestones, walked at 11 months old. Also, just like Karleigh it started around 18 months of age and I kept telling myself, only a year and a half, once he is 3 it will be smooth sailing. Well he turned 3, and the tantrums (which I now know were meltdowns, and there is a difference) stayed. I had to cancel plans, leave get togethers and even birthday parties because Keegan was “being Keegan” and I couldn’t even THINK about taking him to a store, or (oh my word) a restaurant! Only a few more months and he will be 4 and I mean seriously, how long can it take!? So he turned 4, the tantrums continued, the walking on egg shells whenever I took him somewhere continued, and our days frequently involved him in his room for a time out and me in tears. I knew every single time that yelling and time outs were not helping, but I had no other coping skill some days, it was heartbreaking. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t like this everyday ALL day. We could have friends over and have a great visit. He had lots of people in his life that he LOVED and would enjoy playing with and he could go for sleepovers at Grammas house no problem. He never had a separation issue with me or a sleeping issue, his diet was relatively normal aside from his obvious favourites that he would choose if given the option. Keegan though, was like a tiny little ticking time bomb and you never knew when it was going to explode. THAT part was all day every day. He started preschool when he was 3 and a half and by the 2nd year he was going 5 days a week part-time and loving it. He was blessed with the most amazing teacher who to this day still checks in on him to see how he is doing. We know for sure that she, as well as the 2 amazing women at kindergarten have contributed tremendously to the gentle heart that is inside of him.

Preschool was coming to an end and it was time to register for kindergarten. He turned 5, and the red flags were more obvious than ever. 2 made sense, 3 made sense, 4 was a bit of a concern, but now he was 5! At the time he was attending 2 different preschool’s and when it came time to discuss kindergarten one school strongly recommended another year of preschool while the other didn’t agree, and we didn’t either. He had already done 2 years of preschool and the main concerns were his social skills and maturity, we didn’t see how keeping him in a class of younger kids would help. So we made the decision, with support from the school to enrol him in kindergarten and I will never forget sitting there with the Principal saying “I don’t want to be THAT mom. If something is wrong with him I don’t want to be in denial, so if we are having this same talk in kindergarten I will be open-minded to other options”

Summer came and went, school started and not even 2 months into the year there I was, sitting with the principal, and the teacher, and the resource teacher, saying “I know what I said last year, and I meant it … I know that we need to help him, I see that now” but man was it hard. I said those things but I said them through tears, I ugly cried through that entire meeting. In that moment I didn’t recall any tantrums, yelling, hitting or crying, all I could think about was my perfect adorable little blue-eyed boy. None of the difficult moments came to my mind it was only the ones of him being a healthy baby, a bright kid, a hilarious kid! I felt hopeless and helpless all at once and it was awful. We were thankful that both physically and mentally there was nothing “wrong” with him but some days it was torture to try to find something, to fix something, when we had no idea what we were looking for. As much as I knew it deep down for a long time before, it still hit me like a freight train.

Part of that meeting that will always stick with me was when our principal (whom we think is amazing!) said to me, “April this is probably extra difficult for you to hear because unlike other parents who are hearing these things for the first time, you know exactly what we are saying.” You see at the same time as this was happening I was going to school to be an Education Assistant, to work with all kinds of kids but particularly ones with some kind of special need … ones, it turned out, just like my own son. That was a tough pill to swallow. Looking back now, the irony in it all makes me smile. I believe 100% that God has a plan for our lives, one that is already mapped out. At times in our life when we try to take control God breaks us down to what sometimes feels like nothing, and then gently picks up our pieces and sets us back on our track. I assumed that I could send Keegan off to school and he would be fine, and I would go off to school and learn to work with these sweet little kids who need all this extra help, and God said “you already have a sweet little kid who needs extra help, so here are the tools to do just that.” I have learned so much in my program about myself and about my own children it is astounding and invaluable and I am so thankful. I knew that working with these kids was where my heart was, and being able to help my own (and better myself) is such an unbelievable bonus.

So where are we now? Well Keegan turned 6 this month and for the very first time in his life I didn’t think to myself “man, he’s 6, when will this end!?” instead I thought to myself, “ok, now he’s 6, this didn’t happen overnight, and it won’t fix itself overnight. Lets pull our shit together and figure this out” We are currently working with a naturopath, a chiropractor, our school and also waiting for an assessment that will happen next month. Our naturopath has done amazing things for Keegan as far as his diet and overall health goes and already you can see a difference. His chiropractor is a wonderful woman and Keegan loves going to see Dr. Amanda. She has told me that she doesn’t observe anything in him that makes her think that we cant correct and/or integrate his quirks into his system and see him succeed which makes my heart sing!

As far as the assessment goes for now we will just wait until that happens and do our best to prepare him for grade 1 next year. He is not diagnosed with anything at this point, and to me that’s not our goal. Keegan doesn’t fit any typical “textbook” scenario and for most people who know him you would never think that we are dealing with these things. While social skills may be something we are working on, it’s not what you might think. If we go to a park, or a playground, he finds friends, plays with them instantly and interacts like anyone else. In class though, when he says he wants to “play” with someone, that means that person can be in the same vicinity as him, but they better not dare touch his stuff. They can just be near him and that’s good enough for him. Even his teacher says that watching him you just can’t quite pin point what is going on because often he seems like any other child, but then you see little bits of something else, and those little bits are effecting his education and so figuring that out, THAT is our goal.

For the last 2 months I have been pretty absent in my business. While still working, shooting, editing and booking weddings for 2016 I haven’t been posting anything, and I figured the 2 month mark was a good time to explain what I have been up to. I have been at appointment, after appointment. Beside my bed where I would love there to be a book about nothing in particular, there are articles and usually my computer, open to some medical page or another mom’s blog. I like to remind myself, and everyone else that I am at the end of the day just a normal person, and I am a mom before all else.

I also want moms to know that I get it. My life comes across one way to a lot of people and as much as I truly am the blessed wife and happy mother that I portray, I am also the mom who sometimes yells. I am the mom whose son tells her she is terrible sometimes and makes her cry, and then 5 minutes later tells her “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings.” I am the happy person who loves people most days but sometimes seriously can’t stand them. I am the mom who has heard people say all kind of things about her kids from “he is SO adorable” or “she is HILARIOUS” to “He’s going to be perfectly fine!” and “he really is a brat!” … I get it. I am a real mom, with real kids, and real issues … and I understand.

keegans card       keegan 4 yrs old

keegan.january2013

Dear 2014.

Dear 2014,

Like many that came before you, you were a whirlwind year full of ups, downs, laughter, tears and anything that could possibly come in between.

You said goodbye to my 20’s. That was a good thing, it was time for them to come to an end. You saw my last baby begin school, and you reminded me that there is a plan beyond my own and through that have taught me immense patience and understanding for my little boy and for people in general. You saw me go off to my first day of college, at 30 years old. You took me to places like Hawaii, Mexico, and New York City and through those places I experienced fireworks on the beach, many poolside mimosas, photographing breathtaking wedding days, and I can’t forget, Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, the Manhattan skyline, walking the Brooklyn bridge, and maybe my favourite … (just kidding, or am I?!) Macys at Harold Square (hello!!) You also had me go full paparazzi in central park when I spotted Taylor Swift only a few feet away. Well played.

You rekindled a sibling relationship that I was sure was irreparable, and reminded me to never give up. You knew that I was exhausted from worrying about one thing for the last MANY years and gave me a break this year reminding me that it is out of my hands and only let it get it to me a handful of times, thank you for that. I needed that, my kids needed that, my marriage needed that. You gave us a great nephew that we simply adore and will forever love and love, and love.

You (and sometimes Im still angry) brought more cancer diagnoses than I thought I could handle. I know that in time it might all make sense, but it was rough. That wasn’t nice. I said goodbye to one of my very favourite people in the whole world and although I am so thankful for the last days we had together, that spot in my heart will always be sore.

You solidified friendships and taught me the value of my own time. How much I choose to spend, who I choose to spend it with and reminded me that it is ok to not be everyones best friend. I don’t have to include every person every time. Sometimes its enough to just keep in touch, and be thankful for that.

You celebrated 6 years of marriage and 9 years of a relationship that I will hold dear to my heart always. Nothing could compare to what my marriage has taught me.

Above all 2014, you just managed to squeeze in at the end and truly make me believe in myself. I am a good mother, I am a good wife, and I am a good friend … and if I do nothing else in 2015 but continue to be those things, I am ok with that.

….  and drink champagne. I will do that too ….

Is it midnight yet??? 🙂

Cheers!

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Dear Kindergarten.

Dear Kindergarten,
3 years ago I walked down the school hallway, entrusted you with my first born, and carried my baby back out to the car to begin a journey. A 3 year journey of having my son home alone with me while my daughter went to school all day. To be with other kids and other grown ups. To play games and learn to (or show everyone that at 4 years old she could already) read and write. To experience feelings of excitement, happiness, sadness, frustration and all the while learning to cope by herself or for once in her little life ask someone else for help because mommy wasn’t there to hold her hand every step of the way anymore.
You were good to her. You taught her how to be independent and confident, to help others and to make good choices. I dropped her off in September as a smart little shining star and I picked her up in June as an even brighter one.
Well Kindergarten, its the babies’ turn now. The one that I took back out to the car 3 years ago, he’s all yours.
Since he was born 5 years ago he has been the cutest most sweetest boy I have ever seen. He has also made me crazy, tested my nerves and patience, and has driven me to lock myself in the bathroom on more than one occasion. You have your work cut out for you Kindergarten.
I sent you the easy child first so that you would accept my second one with open arms but I need to apologize now, there may have been a strategy to that. Karleigh at 5 was always happy, loved to share, loved everyone she met, and was willing to learn anything that you sent her way! Keegan at 5 is happy if he is left alone and loves animals, not people. He has an incredibly soft and kind heart but please let him show it you when he’s ready, don’t force it. Karleigh could read and write and has always been wise beyond her years. Keegan can spell his name perfectly but might tell you instead that it is “K-e-e-bum-bum” and then proceed to “draw” his name using up an entire sheet of paper. Do not be fooled though he is very smart, and remembers everything.
Karleigh would come and see you all day Kindergarten, and then after would go to music, dance or gymnastics and still have energy to spare. Im hoping Keegan can last until lunch time and am pretty certain that he will be sleeping in the car everyday on the way home.
I did my best for you and I hope that you can see that. In only about 10 days I will hand over my baby to you to look after, nurture and teach all day and I am going to miss him terribly. Then I will remember the hundreds of tantrums that I have diffused over the years and at that time Kindergarten, I will sip my coffee (it will still be warm for once) and I will smile a little inside hoping that he is having fun with all his buddies and learning to be the wonderful young man that I know he will be.
So Kindergarten, please take good care of him, and in turn he will be good to you too I promise.

Sincerely,
April or what I will be known as very soon … “Keegans Mommy”

mommys 29th birthday

I’m turning 30, my kids aren’t vaccinated, and my 20’s have taught me nothing.

I am a worrier. I am a self conscious, people pleasing, people LOVING, chronic worrier.

I grew up in a very liberal and free spirited home. We did not judge, we loved one another (whether we liked it or not) and we were kind. It was awful. I just wanted some of the drama and excitement that other families had, normal families … we just didn’t have it.

Looking back now it was not awful, it was wonderful … I grew up, moved out, and all of the drama in the world came my way! I had no idea that the simplicity of our home was so good.

My 20’s have been (Im sure!) the longest (and most wonderful but I will save that for another post) decade that I will ever have in my entire life. I can’t actually believe that I am still in them. I’ve had these big ideas conjured up in my head about what to blog about, what to share, something fabulous and insightful. All of the things that I learned in my 20’s. When I think about it though, all of the things that are important to me now such as kindness, acceptance, free spirits and free choices, I learned all of it WELL before my 20’s. I learned those things when I was a child, and I carried them through the last 30 years to where I am today.

One of the biggest debates right now is vaccinations. I will keep this as simple as I can. I am not inviting arguments, I am extremely non confrontational. I am not asking for your thoughts, I’ve heard them all. I am not judging whatever choice you have made so all I ask is that you TRY to return that kindness to me. My kids aren’t vaccinated, at all. I am a worrier with a large conscience and I am ok with that fact, and my choice sits well with me. Over the years though I have sat quietly and read friends posts about how parents who don’t vaccinate must not love their children. Parents who don’t vaccinate are stupid. Parents who don’t vaccinate have no respect for anyone else’s children, and the latest, the one that I just cannot handle … Parents who don’t vaccinate want their children to die. These are all things that so-called friends say. I read it, and I shake my head, and I choose to not comment. I choose to be kind and I choose to think about other peoples feelings, and I choose to believe that one day other people might do the same. At the end of the day, it is a choice. We all have that choice and we seem to forget that our choice is just that, ours and not anyone else’s. Anyone who knows me knows that I would never intentionally put my child, or anyone else’s at risk. Anyone who can say that parents who don’t vaccinate must want their children to die (I can hardly even type those words) needs to think about that and know honestly, that those words are so hurtful. If you believe that my kids are a threat to yours because they are not vaccinated, now you are aware and please, by all means, keep your distance from my kids if it makes you feel better. I won’t judge you for YOUR belief. If you believe that I don’t love my children, please by all means keep your distance from Me. I won’t judge you for that belief either. I am not saying that my choice is the only right one. I believe that everyones choice, as long as it’s made with good intentions is the right one no matter what that looks like. I’m simply saying that it was MY choice, and it should have been a free one. Unfortunately it is far from that.

So here I am. I’m turning 30, my kids aren’t vaccinated, and my 20’s have taught me nothing … about kindness and acceptance. Thankfully I learned that as a child and can spend my adult years teaching it to my own.